German Aircraft Models
by Karen Rychlewski

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This was the early production 1/48 Sierra vacuform kit and the model was built in 1991. The model was built as a representative example of the German bomber, rather than as a specific airplane. Full documentation of details for any single aircraft is unavailable; all the details included on the model are documented as having existed on the type when in use.
The kit contained 50 vacuformed and cast metal parts, of which 21 were replaced with more accurate scratch-built plastic ones. The finished model contains over 950 separate and individual parts, mostly plastic with some cast metal, wire, PE, masking tape, thread, and paper.


The entire interior was scratch-built using reference photos of five different aircraft. Replicated details include a Parabellum machine gun in the nose, mounted on a revolving ring connected to a gunner's seat which revolved as well (probably the earliest 'revolving turret'); small bombs which the nose gunner could drop by hand through a chute in the floor; full instrumentation and control wires for the pilot; a folded seat for a fourth crew member; bomb racks and bombs released through the fuselage floor; folded seat, flare gun, and flares for rear gunner. Over a third of the total parts are inside the fuselage.


kit engine nacelles were opened to display the engines. Starting as only the cylinders and exhaust pipes from an Aurora Gotha G.IV kit, both engines were built up and detailed with plastic sheet and rod, wire, paper, and string. Each engine/nacelle unit has over 150 parts.


racks were completely built from scratch from plastic rod, wire, and brass. The bombs were greatly modified from Hasegawa Aircraft Weapons to the correct shape and 4 offset fins were added to each bomb.


all:wing, engine, tail, and tail skid, were cut from strut stock and rod. All rigging is nylon monofilament sewing thread.


the four-color hexagon nightbomber pattern is mostly Americal/Gryphon sheet decal, cut to fit; the four colors had to be matched for paint touch-up. On the original aircraft, this camouflage scheme was hand-painted, not printed fabric, thus some irregularity in size and shape of the hexagons is not only expected, but necessary to follow curved surfaces. Additionally, the hexagon-painted surface was scumbled with grey to reduce contrast and visibility--it's not weathering!


fuselage and rudder crosses are Americal/Gryphon; wing crosses were hand-painted since none were available in the correct size. The crosses used represent a style used during the transitional period from March to June, 1918, while changing from the well-known Iron Cross type to the straight-armed Balkan Cross. The Roman numeral III was used within squadrons to identify individual aircraft.


scratch-built from rod stock and Fotocut wire wheels and wheel halves.

This model took Best WWI Subject and Judges Best Of Show at the IPMS 3 Rivers show, Pittsburgh, in May, 1992

Dornier D.I

Kit: Copper State (1:48)

This is the 1/48 Copper State Models kit of the Dornier D.I (which should properly be called Zeppelin D.I) which was Eric's first attempt in kitdom. Basically accurate according to the MiniDataFile but needs lots of sanding to refine the shape and filling of air pockets. The inside was essentially solid resin--Eric provided a seat and an engine and that was it; so the interior was subjected to extensive Dremeling, sanding, and detailing. Visible elements of the aluminum structure and all the fiddly cockpit bits were scratched, with the addition of various PE bits and pieces from the spares boxes. The control cables still need to be added before the fuselage can be closed; the control stick and seat will be inserted after massive sanding and fitting of the wings, rudder, elevator, struts, and landing gear.

June, 04

The kit engine is a Mercedes; the plane I'm doing had a BMWIIIa--which conveniently is provided in the Roden Fokker DVII box. (Why doesn't Roden sell these engines separately--they're beautiful!). An acute attack of AMS forced me to add all the pieces indicated--in my defense, the engine is pretty visible under normal cowling conditions and I'm leaving the port side cowling panel off.

August, 04

Sometime early '05

The engine and accompanying parts are painted, wired, weathered, and ready to mount in the fuselage.

Sometime late '05

After massive battles with pinholes in the resin wings and fuselage, the parts are ready for the metal covering. I had originally intended to use Rub'n'Buff but could not get it to work for me; then I tried Bare Metal Foil but didn't like the effect. So the last resort was Testor's Model Master Metalizer in a rattle can. The upper wing went through *four* attempts to get this stuff to look good: each time I prepped the wing, primered it, then used the Metalizer; and each time some major flaw resulted--unseen pinholes suddenly appeared, fuzz and dust would sense the wet surface and rush in from every room in the house, I tried to blow the dust motes away before they settled and spit on the surface, etc. etc. etc. After each disaster, the wing was stripped down to the resin and I started over again--with much swearing. Stripping the wing would remove some of the filler in the pinholes; yes, it would have been faster to build the durned wing from scratch, but by this time it was a struggle twixt me and the resin and I was determined to beat it. The fuselage went through only two stripdowns...

Januray 2006 - finished !

At long last, the battle is over! A disappointing finale after such travail. The last disaster to happen was the accidental removal of the hex lozenge decal over the middle of the upper wing (during one of the last repaints of the Metalizer), at which point I discovered I had no more of the same color pattern to use for replacement. Being heartily sick of the whole thing, I used what I had just to get the wing surface covered. During all that stripping and re-painting, the panel lines which started as razor thin took on a life of their own and ended up several scale inches wide--I guess I could have stripped everything down to resin, filled and re-scribed the lines, primered and painted the surfaces, ordered new decals from Americal...NOT

Fokker D.VI

Not well known, the Fokker D.VI appeared in the spring of 1918. It seems to be the result of mating a Fokker Dr.I fuselage and engine with a Fokker D.VII type biplane wing but actually descends from a confusing series of "V" prototypes. Although it produced a handsome little airplane, the performance of this plane was unremarkable and it had an undistinguished career as a fighter with Jasta 80b, later being relegated to training duties. Seven planes were acquired by the Austrians in late August, 1918, and these flew with the Hungarian Red Airborne Corps in 1919. Only about 60 D.VIs were built, production being cancelled in favor of the Fokker E.V

I built the model in 1990 from a 1/48 kit issued by Tom's Modelworks in 1987; this was the original kit with all vacuformed wings, empennage, and fuselage and a few white metal parts. In 1995, Tom's issued an updated kit with resin parts. At the time, there were very few references to this airplane beyond a few photos here and there and a rather extensive coverage in an early Windsock issue. I used the information in that Windsock for the colors on the model; even then there were some questions about the color scheme but I faithfully followed the scheme used by Ray Rimell on his model of the D.VI. The Windsock Datafile # 84, published in 2000, continues to hedge on the colors. Tom's vacuform kits have a well-deserved reputation as high-quality productions and this kit certainly lived up to that reputation. The parts were well-molded with subtle detail, but there were not a lot of fiddly bits to entertain obsessive modelers in the dark of the night. Virtually all the cockpit and engine details were scratchbuilt. I *think* the lozenge decals were with the kit, but really don't remember. All the other color was hand-painted with oil-base enamels. The rigging, what there is of it, was 'invisible' nylon sewing thread. This model has always been one of my favorites, despite any inaccuracies.

Windsock, Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 1986

Junkers D.I

Hugo Junkers (1859-1935) was a brilliant scientist and engineer whose interest in aviation led him to the conclusion that the primary goal of aircraft design should be the elimination of parasitic drag. To achieve this, he patented the "thick wing" concept in 1912; and by late 1914 he had decided that an all-metal monoplane with such a wing was possible. The first two planes with this design, the J 1 and J 2, flew in January and June, respectively, of 1916; but both these experimental designs were made of steel, which proved far too heavy. Subsequent designs used duraluminum and the knowledge gained from a series of experiments (J 3 to J 8) resulted in the final version, the J 9, which first flew in May, 1918. This aircraft was designated, with usual military precision, the D.I (D for Doppledecker, or biplane) and several hundred were ordered. Between June, 1918, and February, 1919, 27 aircraft were built by Junkers & Co. and another 13 by Junkers-Fokker; in early October at least four D.Is were shipped to Flanders, but it is unknown and unlikely that any ever flew in combat.

This model was built from the 1/48 Lone Star multi-media kit, with resin fuselage, wings, tail, engine, radiator, and axle fairing, a seat and gun troughs of vacuformed plastic, white metal wheels, exhaust pipe, control column, and guns, plus PE gun barrels and prop boss. The comprehensive contents of the kit meant that few additional parts were needed: primarily fiddly bits on the engine and in the cockpit. This was the first resin kit I had built and I wasn't too pleased with all the teensy air holes that had to be dealt with; combined with the corrugated surfaces, this is probably not a kit for a first-time resin kit attempt. The outlines and details match very well with the Datafile which was published about three years after the kit appeared. All the painting was with oil-based enamel, hand-brushed. The colors of brown and green were selected on the basis of information in the Profile publication and the appearance of the sole surviving aircraft in the French Air Museum--the Datafile calls the brown and green camouflage "spurious". Oh well...


Even before the start of World War I, the Germans had realized that airplanes, in addition to their reconnaissance role, could be used to drop bombs on the enemy. The aviator and airplane-builder brothers Bruno and Franz Steffen happened along at an opportune time and in December, 1914, they joined with the Siemens-Schuckert engineering company to design a three-engined biplane bomber. They took an unusual approach to the design of this aircraft: the three 150 hp Benz Bz. III engines were buried inside the fuselage and connected to a common gearbox which then powered two tractor propellers in the usual positions through a shaft and gearbox arrangement. The fuselage filled the gap between the wings allowing easy access to a machine gun position above the center of the upper wing; another machine gun was planned for the floor, firing rearwards. From the trailing edge of the wings back, the fuselage had a unique forked structure formed by two triangular tail booms. A five-man crew, including a mechanic, was specified. The Steffen brothers took the plane on a successful maiden flight on 24 May 1915; and in June the three-man acceptance committee was treated to a flight which barely avoided a thunderstorm but included armchairs and a bottle of champagne for their comfort. The plane was sent to the eastern front, but was damaged and repaired several times. It never did drop a single bomb and spent the rest of its life as a trainer, apparently still in use towards the end of the war. The design, however, was so successful that a series of "R" planes, from R.II to R.VII, continued to be used in various roles through 1918.

The 1/144 kit was issued by Blue Rider Models as a limited edition of 1000 in 1991; I believe Joe Chubbock did the masters for the kit. An early multi-media kit, it included vacuformed wings, PE radiators and windshield frame, heavier brass rudder, taiplane, struts and rear fuselage booms, and Aeroclub white metal wheels and propellers with their gearboxes. A bit of round rod was also included for propeller shafts and axles. I didn't care for the brass tailplane, rudder, and fuselage booms so I scratchbuilt these parts from plastic sheet. No interior parts were provided so seats, instrument panel, and control wheels were also scratchbuilt. The wings were tricky to assemble but the kit struts fitted very well; it was rigged with 'invisible' nylon sewing thread. All surfaces were hand-painted with oil-based enamels and the kit decals were used for the national markings. I recall this was my first experience with PE parts. Also the first, and last, 1/144 scale this modeler will ever build!

German Aircraft of the First World War, P. Gray and O. Thetford, Putnam, 1962
The German Giants, G.W. Haddow and P.M. Grosz, Putnam, 1962
Bomber and Reconnaissance Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War, W.M. Lamberton and E.F. Cheesman, Harleyford, 1962
Today we have additionally:
The SSW R.I. Windsock Datafile #89, P.M. Grosz, Albatros Publications, 2001

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